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Appleby and Bin Suroor to sidestep Melbourne trip

Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor have informed Racing Victoria they will not be sending runners to Melbourne this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Godolphin handlers have been well represented at the Spring Carnival in previous years, with Appleby winning the Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter in 2018 while Bin Suroor, who has saddled three Cup seconds, sent Bentbatl to be beaten just two lengths by the great Winx in the Cox Plate the same year.

However, RV general manager of international operations Paul Bloodworth has confirmed both trainers have signalled their intention to bypass Melbourne this year, with Covid-19 restrictions recently increased in the area.

He told www.racing.com: “Both Saeed and Charlie have advised over the last few days that they won’t be coming to Melbourne this year.

“Charlie Appleby advised last night that because of the change to Stage 4 restrictions, he wasn’t comfortable sending his staff to Melbourne and Saeed has also advised he won’t be coming.

“It’s a great shame. Saaed has been a regular in Australia for 30 years and Charlie certainly over the last five or six years, so it’s a shame they won’t be able to compete.”

Bin Suroor explained the strength of his squad was also a factor along with Covid-19.

He said: “I don’t have a strong enough team to take to Australia this year, plus they have also had coronavirus hit Melbourne, so at the moment there are no plans to go to Australia.

“I like going racing and having runners in Australia and I have done for many years, but if you want to run one out there in those top races, you need to take a good one.

“I normally like to have two or three go there, but this year I don’t have those type of horses in the yard.”

While the Godolphin duo have made no entries for the Cox Plate, there are still plenty of European-trained contenders, headed by Andrew Balding’s 2000 Guineas winner Kameko.

The three-year-old has been given the option of tackling the 10-furlong Group One on October 24 along with Roger Charlton’s Aspetar and the Hughie Morrison-trained Le Don De Vie.

The O’Brien family has a strong possible contingent for the 100th renewal, with 22 of the 182 total entries hailing from the stables of Aidan, Joseph or Donnacha.

Magical, Magic Wand, Peaceful and Mogul feature among 13 for Aidan O’Brien, while Nassau Stakes winner Fancy Blue is Donnacha’s entry.

Joesph O’Brien has eight contenders including Buckhurst and Twilight Payment, while Willie Mullins has nominated True Self.

However, restrictions around staff travel to Australia could impact the number of overseas runners.

RV executive general manager Greg Carpenter said: “There is incredible diversity in the list of entries, which pleasingly represents all states of Australia and lots of star power, so the foundation is there for a race befitting such an historic occasion.

“The quality of international entries remains strong despite the current Covid-19 restrictions and the next month will ultimately determine whether these internationals horses can compete in the 100th Cox Plate.”